Practice Really Does Pay Off
Updated: Aug 7
See my Instagram post about this photo here
I recently learned a lesson from my five-
Practice really does pay off!
I walked into the kitchen a few days ago and my mom looked up, grinned and then directed me to a pile of papers on the island.
It was a stack of abstract, bristle brush paintings, macaroni noodle art projects, school work, nostalgic photos and cards to the tooth fairy from my kindergarten years. One of the relics was this one:
It was about 2000 when I was in kindergarten, which means that my little brother, Dale, was an infant at the time, and, apparently, a muse of mine.
According to the title of this piece “Hannah and Dale” I feel that it’s safe to assume this is a portrait I did of the two of us. I think baby Dale’s head is the egg-shaped, demon-eyed thing on the left, emphasizing his small size compared to the large, misshapen creature that I made of myself on the right.
Art has been a part of me practically my whole existence, and on a larger scale than just the odd construction paper Christmas ornament school assignment (that your mom appreciates profusely to your face...then hangs on the back of the tree). We have photo albums where I'm pictured drawing shapes in a sandbox, or with my nose inches from a paint splattered project that had commandeered the kitchen table, I breathed art as a child...but I wouldn't say I was innately good at it.
Talent takes time.
As a kid you're let off the hook a bit because you're mostly focused on the doing of the art, not the outcome. Style, coordination, metaphor and the cosmos don't matter to a five-year-old. Yet as you age, and if you have a nasty little artist inside you that relishes shredding your confidence by pointing out every little iota of ugly, it's easy at times to doubt the process and become dubious of ever hitting your goals.
It's due to this that I recognize the need to reflect, to look back on work I've done to be able to appreciate how far I've come.
Now, comparing the work of a legitimately practicing artist to that of a kindergartener may be extreme, but I couldn't resist the temptation.
If we say I did the original "Hannah and Dale" portrait in 2000, then I took another crack at it in March of this year, over two decades later, for Dale's 22nd birthday present.
Click here if you'd like to see his adorable reaction to his present and the process shots of creating it!
I get asked often how I paint and draw like I do. It seems bizarre to me, a relative amateur, to be asked such things but the honest answer at the end of the day is to just put the work in. Like with anything we dedicate ourselves to, we will see improvement if we invest time and effort. The determining factor is ourselves.
I came across a post a few weeks back by @whimsicalillustration that got me thinking. She shared that she used to go on deleting sprees through her Instagram feed because, for one reason on another, she no longer appreciated the content she'd created.
Her words had me realize that I've adopted a different method. Somehow I've managed to frame my past work as a positive thing, generally sneaking away from the more savage inner critic commentary that I do fall into from time to time. I like to think of my Instagram feed and folders of past work as a photo book that I get to scroll through (and I do this often) to appreciate how far I've come to date. I get to be proud of the work I've invested in my craft as well as eager for what my art is yet to become.
Ultimately it boils down to the raw truth:
We cannot be what we yearn for without having been who we are now and before.
It's impossible for us to step into the larger shoes, upgrade our brushes and pigments and waltz epically into the big world without growing through all we go through to get us there in the first place. The time slips by, the work waits to be done and we can invest the effort or not.
I just know for certain that I adore looking back over my shoulder.
Speaking of letters to the tooth fairy, here's one written on the back of a paper Kendall Motor Oil floor mat cover that used to be used at my parent's old automotive service centre. The hand writing is my dad's, I imagine I dictated the letter to him while at the shop, post kindergarten.